Tongue blocking airway while sleeping

The underlying causes of snoring are different for each person. For many individuals, the root problem has to do with the tongue. Whether you have a large tongue, weak tongue muscles or you sleep on your back – there are a number of reasons why the tongue may interfere with nighttime breathing.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is typically the first treatment option employed for patients dealing with a chronic snoring problem – it may also be the first treatment option prescribed if you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. Due to CPAP’s non-invasive nature and ability to keep the airway open at night when used as directed, this makes sense. However, CPAP is not for everybody. Many patients are unable to get comfortable with the mask on their face and complain about additional side effects that may include dry mouth and skin irritation.

If you are a non-compliant CPAP user with a snoring problem that’s primarily caused by obstruction from the tongue, you may be relieved to hear that there’s another way to treat snoring without CPAP. In this blog, Dr. Carmine Morreale, dental sleep specialist at Boston Center for Oral Health, will provide an overview of how oral appliance therapy works and why it may be a good option for patients looking to treat snoring without CPAP.

What role does the tongue play in causing snoring?

It’s important to first address the role that the tongue plays in causing snoring in order to understand how oral appliance therapy can target the problem. Simply put, snoring is a sound that’s created when your airway becomes partially or completely obstructed. The tongue is one factor that can cause obstruction and it does this by falling back into the throat during sleep. Whether you have a large tongue, weak tongue muscles or a narrow airway that’s more easily blocked off, tongue obstruction may arise for several reasons.


Sleeping on your back as well as taking sleeping aids or consuming alcohol close to bedtime can all exacerbate the issue, as these factors make it more likely that the tongue will collapse back into the airway. This is because sleeping aids and alcohol can relax the tongue muscles, compromising the body’s natural defenses against airway obstruction.

How can oral appliance therapy treat snoring without CPAP?

Rather than using airway pressure, oral appliance therapy works by repositioning the jaw and stabilizing the tongue in order to enlarge the airway and prevent obstruction. The device resembles a mouth guard, like you might wear while playing contact sports, but since it is custom-made to fit your mouth structure, most patients report incredible comfort and ease of use.

Like CPAP, it’s a nonsurgical anti-snoring device that needs to be used each night in order to be effective. However, compliance rates are much higher with oral appliance therapy due to its numerous advantages over CPAP.

What are the benefits of oral appliance therapy over CPAP?

If you are struggling to stay compliant with your CPAP therapy or you simply cannot tolerate wearing the mask and are avoiding using it, oral appliance therapy is an option worth considering.

It offers a number of advantages, including:

  • Non-invasive snoring treatment – it requires no surgery or intensive treatment plan; from initial consultation to follow-up appointments, the whole experience is quite simple
  • No more CPAP – oral appliance therapy allows you to treat snoring without CPAP and break free from all of the unpleasant side effects of using a CPAP mask
  • Quick adjustment period – most patients become accustomed to their oral appliance device within the first week of using it
  • Easy to use and travel with – the device is simple to use (worn just like a mouth guard) and because of its small size, it is easy to travel with, unlike bulky CPAP machines with multiple components
  • Small, discreet design – the small, custom-fitted design of an oral appliance makes it discreet, so it won’t be obvious to others when you’re wearing it

Looking to treat snoring without CPAP in Boston?

If you’re looking to treat snoring without CPAP, the first step is to schedule a consultation at the Boston Center for Oral Health to learn whether oral appliance therapy is right for you. You can do this by filling out the appointment form right on this page or by contacting our office.

Don’t let your tongue get in the way of a great night’s sleep. With oral appliance therapy, our non-invasive snoring treatment, we can help you achieve the long-lasting, obstruction-free sleep that you deserve.

If you’re still not convinced that snoring is impacting your quality of sleep and your quality of life, take our short Snore Quiz to see how severe your problem is and whether you may be at risk for obstructive sleepanea.

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